Residents raise drowning fears
By RACHEL SCOLLAY
JOHN RITCHIE fears a new council wetland project in Evans Head is a tragedy waiting to happen, especially in light of the 2001 drowning of three-year-old Chloe Ensby in Casino.
Chloe fell into an unfenced pond near a Casino playground, and earlier this month Richmond Valley Council was found to be negligent and ordered to pay $26,000 in damages to a neighbour suffering post-traumatic stress from the incident.
The three man-made wetlands in Beach Street, Evans Head, are designed to counteract erosion problems. They are unfenced, but are described as safe by Richmond Valley Council.
"We consider it to be a public safety issue," said Mr Ritchie, who is secretary of the Evans Head Progress Association.
"If you put a swimming pool in your backyard you have to fence it to stop children drowning, and they've put three (pools) on public property.
"Perhaps nothing will happen, but you only need to lose one kid and it makes everyone look bad."
Council engineer Damien Grace said the man-made wetlands had been designed in keeping with the coroner's recommendations following the 2001 drowning.
He said people were getting confused between a swimming pool and the wetlands, which had low-angle batters at the sides, meaning you could easily walk in and out.
"If a kid topples into a swimming pool, they are not going to get out because it's vertical," he said.
"The (wetlands) don't have to be fenced because of the design features we've put in."